Wednesday, 17 June 2015

'Pointless' bar charts

A couple of nights ago some may remember that I put up on the twitter chat #mathstlp that I was teaching bar charts to Year 9 bottom set and was in need of inspiration. I had a couple of contributions (thank you ladies - @missradders I used the challenge you sent me) and then Tuesday morning I had a brainwave - Pointless! I had intended to put a picture of a bar chart on the board and ask pupils questions about it, but then the brainwave I had was - why not just give them the picture and get them to write about it; and from there can they come up with that "pointless" bit of information that no one else can!

Instead of just putting the picture on the board I organised the kids into 11 groups and gave each group a copy of the bar chart stuck into the middle of the paper and told them to write as many bits of factual information from the chart as they could around the outside. After about 10 minutes they had to choose one of the bits of information that they thought was their "best shot" at a pointless answer. They were then given points in the true pointless style - however many groups had the bit of information scored them that many points, or for an incorrect answer the maximum of 10 points (11 teams = maximum of 10 points when counting from 0 to 10).

The kids really enjoyed the competitive element and trying to come up with obscure information, and obviously we got some interesting maths that I wouldn't have thought to ask [how about the bar is 7.5 cm long and 1 cm wide!] We got some great discussion and discord about whether people were right or wrong, and whether two pieces of information were the same. One group said the frequencies add up to 390; and meant the values on the frequency axis rather than the frequencies indicated by the bars; we didn't give that as it was ambiguous.

I can see this working for lots of things; I think putting a straight line graph on the paper and asking for facts here as well, or a two-way table, or any other way of presenting factual information. So if you are looking to get kids answering questions you would never think of asking, try a Pointless Page.

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